Adorning Borders | Mingei International Museum

Meet Kerianne Quick, a local jewelry designer and Associate Professor of Jewelry and Metalwork at San Diego State University (SDSU). Kerianne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Design from SDSU, a Master of Fine Arts in Metal from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and worked as a research assistant for Dutch designer Gijs Bakker in Amsterdam. Her impressive exhibition record spans prestigious venues like the Museum of Art and Design in NYC, Museo Franz Mayer in CDMX, the National Museum for Women in the Arts in D.C., Salon del Mobile in Milan, and Design Week Amsterdam.

Most recently, her work can be found in Mingei’s upcoming exhibition, La Frontera, an exhibition that explores the complexity of the U.S.–Mexico border as a physical reality, geopolitical construction, and state of being through the medium of jewelry. Rooted in exploring craft as a cultural phenomenon, with a focus on material specificity and personal adornment, Kerrianne shares about her work in the show.

Is there an experience that influenced your work in La Frontera?

In late 2019 I went on my first water drop-in with the organization Border Angels in the Hostile Terrain. We carried large water jugs and other supplies into the beautiful, terrifying rocky desert. The clear jugs carried on the volunteers' bodies became like shining jewels in the winter sun. We left our offerings–making them not too visible and not too invisible–and collected the empty husks of the jugs that had been used and some that had been destroyed. I was struck by the shift in value that these objects experienced, from priceless to worthless, depending on whether they were filled with water or not. Jewelry does that too–especially when the value we assign to something is sentimental. It’s all about who connects with it and how.

Can you tell us more about La Frontera, and how the exhibition uses jewelry to consider the surface of the body as a border?

Jewelry acts as a portal, giving a pathway for our innermost beliefs, personal experiences, or hidden affiliations to be communicated with those around us. In that way, when jewelry is physically resting on the body, it becomes the point between interior and exterior, here and there, hidden and revealed.

How do you think jewelry can convey cultural and personal narratives, and what role does it play in your exploration of craft and materiality as cultural phenomena?

Every choice a jeweler makes, from form to surface, process to material choice, is closely tied to our geographic location, proximity and access to resources, and cultural values.

How did you become connected with Mingei?

I first became connected with Mingei through my involvement with the Education Committee. Patricia Cué, Mingei’s current Creative Director and a former colleague at SDSU invited me to serve on the committee. Having a deep appreciation for Mingei since my time at SDSU, I was truly honored to contribute in this way.

A previous project further enriched my connection with Mingei. I had the privilege of working alongside Mingei docents during the Museum’s renovation period. Together, we collaborated on a project that involved sharing an object related to their migration story. This project eventually found its way to the New Americans Museum, where it was exhibited in ​​A Portrait of People in Motion.

What makes the San Diego/Tijuana region a place where jewelry and other crafts can thrive?

We live differently with craft objects. Both jewelry and other crafts are important for their function and how that function expresses us culturally. A person’s relationship with something like the cup you put your lips on and drink out of, or the chair you rest your body on, or even the jewelry you wear on your skin is often more personal than other art objects. And because San Diego and Tijuana are border cities where there is a lot of movement of people and practicality of what you decide to take when you move. Objects are moving with the people that are both sentimental and functional.

These objects are also often passed down from others. And there's something about the heirloom or the thing that ties us to our origin or to people or places that we don't have access to anymore that reminds us of that, that feels more poignant in this kind of transitional borderland space.

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